Most of the time I’m really happy with my little French farmhouse in rural northern France.
I bought it ten years ago at a very good price – let’s just say that the deposit was paid by selling the OH’s beloved Jaguar (we didn’t really need a second car – stop moaning OH!), and the mortgage was paid by giving up our (smart, London) gym memberships.
Of course buying a cheap house comes at a higher price – that of renovating it, but that’s another story (see My French House).
Our village is very quiet, “tranquille” say the locals; there is no bar or shop; the bread is delivered daily by a lovely lady in a van, a meat van comes on Saturday afternoon, the fish van on Tuesday morning and grocery van on Tuesday afternoon. The sounds you hear most here are birds singing, dogs barking, chickens clucking and tractors going up and down the windy country lanes – I love it, most of the time.
Every now and again though I get a twinge and think oooh – I really wouldn’t mind THAT house.
A couple of houses that belonged to the rich and famous in France have come up for sale recently and really caught my eye. However, unless a very rich uncle appears as if by magic and hands me a fortune, or I happen to buy a lottery ticket with the winning numbers – owning such a house is never going to happen.
It’s nice to dream – and to share – so, these are the two houses that, if money was no object I might consider buying!
Coco Chanel’s house on the French Riviera at Cap Martin is for sale through Knight Frank real estate agents for anything up to a cool £50m if you want to know!
The house comes with a fascinating history – Coco Chanel’s lover of the time, none other than the Duke of Westminster, bought her a plot of land in Cap Martin and she and her architect Robert Streitz designed the beautiful house called Villa Pausa which was built in 1929. When Coco and the Duke ended their affair in 1933 – she kept the house of course and is credited with saying “there are a lot of Duchesses – but only one Coco Chanel” – what a gal!
Of course the house has been updated since the days that the iconic French designer lived and partied there – she sold it in 1953 – but the style is evident.
Even after Coco sold the house it went on to host the great and the good as a famous literary agent of the day, Emery Reves, bought it and he knew anyone who was worth knowing from Winston Churchill to Grace Kelly – and they all partied here.
The views over the Mediterranean Sea are stunning, the rooms airy and light, the vaulted ceilings are delightful and the manicured gardens are just gorgeous.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s house is also on the French Riviera at Cap d’Antibes not too far from la Coco’s house. It is a gorgeous Belle Epoque style villa that comes with its own private beach … sigh…
Called Villa Picolette, the views over the Med are fantastic, the beautiful mellow stone walls and bright blue shutters in landscaped gardens are an absolute joy to behold
Fitzgerald only lived in the French villa from 1922-1924, entertaining his famous friends like Ernest Hemingway, but it is here where he was said to have been inspired to write “Tender is the Night” and the house will forever be associated with him for that reason. The book opens with the immortal lines:
“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose coloured hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade ago it was almost deserted after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bungalows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies among the massed pines remain between Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers and Cannes, five miles away…”
Ah what stories both houses could tell if they could talk…